It is becoming steadily more difficult to recall that, once upon a time, there were many different ATM networks across the country, some owned by credit unions and several with a fee-free option for users. These regional networks competed vigorously for credit union affiliation and led to sometimes as many as six or seven different logos on the backs of cards.
These networks have been gradually vanishing for years as they have been merged into or purchased by larger networks until now there are effectively three truly nationwide options for fee-free ATM access from which credit unions may choose: CO-OP Network (owned by CO-OP Financial Services); Credit Union 24 and Allpoint (owned by Cardtronics).
This nationalization of ATM options has furthered the drift of ATM services away from being something credit unions can use to individualize themselves and more into becoming a financial service commodity; part of the minimum set of services and products a credit union over a certain size will have to have in order to compete with both regional and national banks as well as other credit unions.
This drift will continue over 2013.
The new year will also see an increased deployment of shared branching as well as a rising profile for this service. For many years, different parts of the industry have tended to see shared branching as afterthought, in part because shared branching advocates used to promote the service primarily as a better way for credit unions to compete with national banks. Nice, but maybe not essential. But the experiences of hurricanes Katrina, Irene and most recently Sandy have helped boost the profile of shared branching as an important and perhaps even essential tool for credit unions to add to their disaster recovery and survival plans. Steady growth will continue, with more credit unions beginning to offer shared branching and to fall back upon it during events that close their regular branches.